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Author's profile photo Gabriela Burlacu

This week: Tolerating passive leadership creates an unpleasant (and unproductive!) work environment

Members of SAP SuccessFactors’ Value Realization Research team are constantly reading up on the topics most important to you, your employees, and your managers. Each week we will be sharing an interesting finding we’ve read about to give you innovative and data-based ideas on how to better structure your HR processes and more effectively manage your workforce.

This week: Tolerating passive leadership creates an unpleasant (and unproductive!) work environment  

Many of us have worked for “do-nothing managers”, known in the literature as passive leaders. These leaders tend to take an inactive, hands-off approach to managing their employees, sometimes avoiding decision-making and interaction altogether. There are many negative consequences to passive leadership, including disengaged, dissatisfied employees who are unclear on what they are expected to accomplish at work. But a recent study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior suggests that passive leadership can also lead to an environment of workplace incivility. Incivility is subtle (sometimes manifesting as eye rolling during meetings, disregarding another person’s opinion, or sending a rudely-worded email), but over time its impact on employee productivity is far-reaching. In their study, Harold and Holtz (Fox School of Business and Management, Temple University) found that employees with passive leaders were far more likely to perceive themselves as targets of incivility and then go on to display incivility themselves to others at work. The more passive the leader, the worse this effect became. Successful organizations must enable managers and hold them accountable for displaying active, engaged leadership behaviors or they risk having a disengaged and potentially discourteous workforce that ultimately hurts the bottom line.  

For more information, access the research abstract and full article here.

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